University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart is making news headlines and, once again, it stems from a souring relationship with the media.
Smart announced on Tuesday, per the Macon Telegraph, that the media will no longer be permitted to report injuries, both “non-contact jerseys [sic] and injuries seen in front of media,” until he signs off. Reporters are generally on the practice field for seven to 15 minutes per practice and, before the change, the policy was simply no phone calls and no social media posts from the field.
The new policy begins less than a week after Smart slammed the media…in a press conference. Online Athens reports that a freshman defensive back was injured during a practice in front of reporters. Several reporters wrote about the incident and Coach Smart followed with a vocal indication of his dissatisfaction:
“Well, considering I haven’t had a lot of time to talk to the trainers, but it’s nice to know that you guys have found it in your hearts to report it,” Smart said. “So his mom has to find out from you guys rather than from us, which upsets me a little bit to be honest with you. I don’t think it’s really fair.”
He then went on to say last week: “We’ll make some changes for you guys and try to handle that a little better from now on.”
A reporter from the Baton Rouge Advocate, George Morris, tweeted Tuesday that Smart should “close practice” if he does not want reporters to report what they see. He also inquired if members of the press covering UGA football were going to “kowtow to this edict, or are you going to do your jobs?”
DeadSpin speculated that local and regional reporters will be hit hardest by such a rule as their reporting is dependent upon quotes and interaction with players and coaches. National reporters will tweet and report uninterrupted and without repercussion, the site said.
There is also the public funding aspect of the argument, which puts Smart out of bounds considering the football facilities are on public university property.
The track record for Coach Smart is not good. He is responsible for the anti-transparency law, rightly named “Kirby’s Law,” which grants public universities in Georgia the ability to wait up to 90 days to respond to (not fulfill) Open Records Requests instead of three-day period like nearly every other entity in the state. While he did not “lobby” for the change, which happened in the final hours of the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers credited the change to his Kirby’s recruiting. This, after making headlines for trying to charge $13,000 and $30,000 for open records requests in an attempt to block the free flow of information two separate occasions.
The ORR law provides for the biggest window of response to ORR’s in the country and Kirby’s practice reporting policy is now one of the strictest in the country.